Morning Report: A Look at Last Year’s Top Ten Prospects for the West Virginia Power

Picking up where we left off last week. From Tuesday through Friday, we looked at the progress of the top prospects from the 2017 DSL Pirates, GCL Pirates, Bristol Pirates and Morgantown. The latter re-upped their Player Development Contract for two more years. Now it’s time to look at the full-season teams, starting with the West Virginia Power. First I’ll list the players, then comment below.

  1. Luis Escobar
  2. Adrian Valerio
  3. Eduardo Vera
  4. Oddy Nunez
  5. Hunter Owen
  6. James Marvel
  7. Cam Vieaux
  8. Geoff Hartlieb
  9. Matt Anderson
  10. Blake Cederlind

Between the making of this list and the printing of the book, we got better reports on Geoff Hartlieb, which led to him moving up three spots. In his write-up for the West Virginia top ten, we mentioned unconfirmed reports that he hit 100 MPH, which we later confirmed. His average velocity was also much better than what we saw, which partially had to do with seeing him often early in the year, but he added velocity during the middle of the season. Other than that, the list remained similar to what we had in the book.

Luis Escobar remains the top prospect from this team and it’s still because of his upside, though he hasn’t really taken a step forward this season. His strikeouts are well off of last year’s great rate, but everything else is close to last year’s pace, including ERA, walk rate, BAA, GO/AO ratio and WHIP. He still lacks consistency, but there is a lot to like with his arsenal.

Adrian Valerio was hitting better until a recent cold streak, but he has always been a very streaky hitter. At 21, he’s still on the young side for the pitcher-friendly FSL, so it’s understandable that he isn’t putting up big offensive numbers. That being said, he needs to be doing more than what we were seeing even before this recent slide. His true value is in his terrific defense at shortstop and he adds value with his speed, but those tools will only get him so far if he doesn’t hit better.

Eduardo Vera received a promotion to Altoona this year and then put together three straight appearances of seven innings each. He had some trouble in his last two starts, but there’s still more good than bad to look at this season. Vera is fighting for a 40-man roster spot this winter and has just under half of a season to get there. He reaches minor league free agency at the end of the year. I’m sure the Pirates would love to have him back on a minor league deal, but if he finishes strong, he could look for better options elsewhere first.

Oddy Nunez grabbed some headlines this week, so everyone should be updated on him. Despite a no-hitter and six shutout innings last week, his prospect status has fallen. He was more about potential, as a 21-year-old, 6’8″ lefty, who hides the ball well in his delivery and has a lot of movement on his pitches. He was sitting 90-92 MPH last year, which led to a lot of weak contact. This year we have seen fastballs in the 85-86 MPH range at times, touching 90 only occasionally. He also isn’t showing the control we saw last year and the ground ball rate has gone way down.

There wasn’t much difference in potential from the group ranked 5-7 on our list. James Marvel had decent velocity and late movement on his sinker, showing improved secondary pitches. Cam Vieaux had a nice four-pitch mix, but wasn’t showing the velocity that the Pirates hoped to tap into when the selected his in the sixth round in 2016. Hunter Owen showed power and the ability to get hit by pitches, but not much else.

Marvel and Owen are in the same place now, showing some potential but not enough to make that leap in prospect status. Vieaux on the other hand, has tapped into that potential velocity and now his four-pitch mix includes a 93-94 MPH fastball, not the 88-91 we have seen often in the past. That has helped lead to much better results, a promotion to Altoona, and more importantly, a much higher strikeout rate. He’s throwing hard and hasn’t sacrificed any command in the process.

Geoff Hartlieb doesn’t have an ERA worth bragging about at 5.13 through 26.1 innings, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. The velocity helps his prospect case, but when you add in his 33:6 SO/BB ratio in 26.1 innings and a 2.38 GO/AO ratio, there is a lot to like once you looked past that ERA.

Matt Anderson and Blake Cederlind were fillers to the list. Anderson retired in the off-season and Cederlind has pitched in relief for West Virginia, until getting a promotion recently to Bradenton. His potential is in a mid-90s fastball, but he didn’t have much else besides that pitch. At least this year he is controlling the ball better, so there are some improvements to his stock.


Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pittsburgh Pirates won 6-4 over the New York Mets on Monday night. The Pirates will send Chad Kuhl to the mound for his 16th start today. He allowed eight runs over two innings against the Arizona Diamondbacks in his last start. The scheduled Mets starter is left-hander Steven Matz, who has a 3.68 ERA in 71 innings, with 63 strikeouts and a 1.28 WHIP. He gave up five runs over 5.2 innings against the Colorado Rockies in his last outing.

The minor league schedule includes Taylor Hearn starting game one of a doubleheader for Altoona. He picked up the shortest complete game possible last time out, allowing two runs over four innings in a rain-shortened loss. Tyler Eppler gets the early afternoon start for Indianapolis. He has allowed eight runs over his last 10.2 innings. Bradenton starter Luis Escobar threw six shutout innings in his last start. Gavin Wallace was pushed back to today, after originally being scheduled on Sunday, which was rained out. No starter is listed for Morgantown, but it’s Osvaldo Bido’s turn in the rotation.

MLB: Pittsburgh (37-41) @ New York Mets (31-45) 7:10 PM
Probable starter: Chad Kuhl (4.56 ERA, 77:31 SO/BB, 81.0 IP)

AAA: Indianapolis (41-33) @ Toledo (44-31) 12:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Tyler Eppler (3.41 ERA, 42:11 SO/BB, 43.2 IP)

AA: Altoona (37-33) vs Harrisburg (40-35) 5:00 PM DH (season preview)
Probable starter: Taylor Hearn (3.63 ERA, 76:27 SO/BB, 67.0 IP) and TBD

High-A: Bradenton (36-33) @ Palm Beach (41-27) 6:30 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Luis Escobar (3.63 ERA, 43:25 SO/BB, 67.0 IP)

Low-A: West Virginia (41-30) vs Lakewood (44-30) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Gavin Wallace (3.59 ERA, 39:10 SO/BB, 62.2 IP)

Short-Season A: Morgantown (5-6) @ Auburn (4-6) 6:30 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: TBD (0.00 ERA, 0:0 SO/BB, 0.0 IP)

Rookie: Bristol (4-3) vs Pulaski (2-5) 7:00 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Oliver Garcia (27.00 ERA, 1:2 SO/BB, 1.1 IP)

GCL: Pirates (2-4) vs Yankees West 12:00 PM (season preview)

DSL: Pirates1 (8-12) vs Red Sox2 10:30 AM (season preview)

DSL: Pirates2 (8-12) vs Colorado 10:30 AM  (season preview)


From Bradenton, the final out in Oddy Nunez’s no-hitter and it was not an easy play for Garrett Brown.


6/25: Jackson Williams added to Indianapolis roster. Arden Pabst assigned to Bradenton.

6/25: Eric Wood assigned to Morgantown on rehab.

6/25: Pirates release Johnny Hellweg.

6/24: Pirates place Michael Feliz on disabled list. Clay Holmes recalled from Indianapolis

6/24: Jerrick Suiter activated from Indianapolis disabled list.

6/24: Pirates released Kyle Simmons and Cristopher Perez.

6/23: Corey Dickerson reinstated from Family Medical Emergency Leave list. Adam Frazier optioned to Indianapolis.

6/23: Evan Piechota placed on disabled list. Ryan Haug promoted to Bradenton.

6/22: Pirates sign Braxton Ashcraft and Connor Kaiser.

6/22: Francisco Cervelli placed on disabled list. Jacob Stallings recalled from Indianapolis.

6/22: Arden Pabst promoted to Indianapolis. Blake Cederlind promoted to Bradenton.

6/22: Travis MacGregor assigned to GCL Pirates on rehab.

6/22: Fernando Villegas activated from Morgantown restricted list. Assigned to GCL Pirates.

6/21: Fabricio Macias activated from West Virginia restricted list. Assigned to Morgantown.

6/21: Pirates sign Kyle Mottice and Steven Kraft.

6/21: Tyler Eppler activated from temporary inactive list.

6/21: Cody Smith assigned to Morgantown from GCL Pirates

6/20: Corey Dickerson placed on Family Medical Emergency Leave list. Adam Frazier recalled.

6/20: Jackson Williams placed on Indianapolis disabled list.

6/20: Pirates sign three draft picks

6/20: Pirates sign Matt Morrow and Pat Dorrian

6/20: Enny Romero assigned to Indianapolis on rehab.

6/18: Richard Rodriguez activated from disabled list. Dovydas Neverauskas optioned to Indianapolis

6/18: Pirates recall Jose Osuna. Jacob Stallings optioned to Indianapolis.


Seven former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, including two of the better players in team history.  Starting with the other five players (their bios can be found in the link above), we have pitcher Howie Pollet (1951-53, 1956), pitcher Elmer Singleton (1947-48) and third baseman Deb Garms (1940-41), who controversially won the 1940 batting title. Also outfielder Babe Herman (1935), who was a star during his day, and pitcher Elmer Ponder (1917, 1919-21). Pollet was involved in two of the bigger trades in team history, coming over from the Braves in 1951 for Cliff Chambers and Wally Westlake. Chambers had thrown a no-hitter a month earlier. In 1953, Pollet was part of the huge Ralph Kiner deal with the Cubs.

Garms hit .355 in 1940 to win the NL batting title, but many people felt he didn’t have enough plate appearances. NL President Ford Frick stated at the time that he only needed to play 100 games to qualify and Garms played 103, going to the plate 385 times. Now the minimum is 502, although a player can still win with fewer if their average is still higher than second place after you add hitless at-bats to their total (only for calculation purposes). For example, if a player had 480 plate appearances, and adding an 0-for-22 to his total still had him with the best average, then he would win.

The bios for the two other players can be found here. They are catcher Jason Kendall and IF/OF Bill Robinson. Kendall played nine seasons (1996-2004) for the Pirates and caught more games that anyone else in team history. He ranks in the franchise’s top 20 in games, runs, hits, doubles and stolen bases. He batted .306 in 1,252 games. Robinson played eight years (1975-82) in Pittsburgh and hit .276 with 109 homers for the Pirates. He hit 166 homers during his career. During the 1979 championship season, he hit 24 homers and drove in 75 runs.